Have you noticed? From Camelback Road to Grand Avenue, someone's sprinkled Pixy Stix on our city.
At the southern end of this sweet spot, Emily Spetrino-Murtagh and Liam Murtagh are spinning a lot of plates as owners of Sweets and Beats. At their funky shop, they're selling candy, they're selling vinyl records, they're scheduling programming, and they're showcasing local artists on the shop walls. They are a DIY dynamic duo, right down to the thrift-store tables they've painted in red and black enamel, to go with bright green walls and piles of retro candy favorites like Bit-O-Honey and Pop Rocks, gag gifts, and funky T-shirts.
The overall effect is carnival-esque with bits of vintage punk rock and quirky-weird thrown in for good measure.
Believe it or not, the color scheme for the store came from a bottle of Gold Bond Medicated Body Lotion. "I was in my mom's bathroom and I was, like, 'That's the prettiest thing I've ever seen,'" Emily says. "I was, like, 'This is our store. I want to paint my whole store this color green.'"
Every second and fourth Tuesday, Sweets and Beats hosts a comedy hour. And on the third Saturday of every month, it hosts a morning shop 'n' swap — like a spontaneous flea market — with next-door neighbor Trunk Space in their conjoined backyards.
The store is open from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Good for a late-night sweet tooth fix, a clean shirt, or a can of fart spray.
1504 Grand Ave., 602-253-9258, myspace.com/sweetsandbeats
Mary Coyle Old-Fashioned Ice Cream
Just shy of its 60th birthday, this creamy parlor is about more than fudge ripple, Marshmallow Fluff, and some nice sprinkles. It's about Oreo Ice Cream Pie. It's about the transcendence of two scoops of Fresh Honey Banana (also available in a takeaway half-gallon) in a chocolate-dipped sugar cone. And the endless joys of the Mary Coyle drive-through, where cold dessert treats are yours without ever leaving your car.
5521 N. 7th Ave., 602-265-6266, marycoyle.net
Their slogan ("A sweet little shop for sweet little folks") doesn't fool us for a minute. We're neither little nor especially sweet, and yet we can't get enough of this cool candy store, where we splurge as often as we can on treats from our past (candy cigarettes, anyone?) and present (real toffee!). Sometimes, if our sweet tooth is aching, we hang out at Smeeks just to ogle the retro lunch pails (Twinkie the Kid! King Ding Dong!) or to pop into the funky photo booth for some quick candids. Fun!
14 W. Camelback Rd., 602-279-0538, smeeks.net
Cactus Candy Company
3010 N. 24th St.
132 E. Camelback Rd.
5555 N. 7th St.
Tammie Coe Cakes
610 E. Roosevelt St., Ste. 145
Chill Out Gelato Cafe
610 E. Roosevelt St.
825 E. Camelback Rd.
MacAlpine's Soda Fountain
2303 N. 7th St.
49 W. Thomas Rd.
Copper Star Coffee owner Bill Sandweg was, as he puts it, "looking for something to do" four years ago when he spotted the abandoned Chevron gas station on Seventh Avenue. The 40-year-old four-pump just around the corner from Sandweg's house had been vacant for some time, and something about it hollered "Coffee house!" to the former restaurant manager, who snatched up the property and "nicened it up."
Nice, indeed. Copper Star is a neighborhood café with a casual ambiance — a big sofa in the middle of the room; a lot of long, wide tables; outdoor seating and free Wi-Fi. Rather than a long list of candied coffee confections, Copper Star's baristas brew a bold, tasty everyday blend — Sandweg calls it the "aroma blend" — an all-purpose medley of local, fresh-roasted beans. The cafe's espresso drinks are made with milk from Yuma's Sarah Farms, and its pastry case is jammed with tasty treats, every last one of them baked on the premises and priced — get this — at two bucks apiece.
"We grind to order and brew a fresh pot every 10 or 15 minutes," Sandweg says. "I want people to feel at home, and good coffee is a big part of that. Let's face it: You wouldn't make a bad cup of coffee for yourself at home. Right?"
4220 N. 7th Ave., 602-266-2136, copperstarcoffee.com
Cartel Coffee Lab
More than just another coffee shop, Cartel (which just opened its newest location downtown) is more like a coffee religion. Cartel makes its own joe, offered for sale here, using beans from farms in Guatemala and Brazil, and java fans who can't wait till they get home can have a cuppa right there, loafing on a comfy couch and enjoying free Wi-Fi service.
1 N. 1st St., 480-225-3899, cartelcoffeelab.com
Fair Trade Café
Fair Trade's new location, in the courtyard level of the A.E. England Building in Civic Space Park, is just as swell as its original Trinity Cathedral locale. These folks brew only fair-trade, organic, great-tasting coffees and espressos from around the world, and every small batch is hand-roasted by Tucson-based Adventure Coffee Roasters. Fair Trade's ever-changing art gallery and roster of live bands and poetry readings set it apart from the coffee crowd — and we call that more than Fair.
1020 N. 1st Ave., 602-354-8150 424 N. Central Ave., 602-253-6912, azfairtrade.com
901 N. 5th St.
1 N. Central Ave.
4 W. Camelback Rd.
149 W. McDowell Rd.
40 N. Central Ave., Ste. 106
4700 N. Central Ave.
4404 N. Central Ave.
(inside Urban Grocery & Wine Bar)
14 E. Pierce St.
2327 N. 7th St.
3508 N. 7th St.
In writer parlance, a sidebar is an addendum to a larger feature. But when it comes to downtown bars, SideBar is the main feature. This popular cocktail lounge, opened in November 2008, is both a hot gathering place and a throwback to swank clubs of yesteryear.
"I used to love the old Chez Nous," Sidebar owner Josh Parry says of the landmark cocktail lounge formerly on Seventh Avenue. "That place drew all kinds of different people. So when I created SideBar, I wanted a place that would appeal to an eclectic group. We've got politicians and judges at one end of the bar in suits and ties, and at the other end there's a young kid with tattoos and gauged ears — and they all feel like they're in the right place."
It doesn't hurt that the cocktails are smashing. "Our White Rabbit is pretty damn good," Parry says of the bar's signature drink, an update on the horchata martini. "And our Simplepolitan is fabulous. We added pomegranate liqueur to bring it really over the top. And our Whiskey Berry Sour, made with fresh-muddled blueberries, sells like crazy."
SideBar offers a DJ on First Fridays, as well as every Sunday during the bar's Sunday Services party, featuring all-day discounts on libations.
"We have a little bit of everything here," Parry says, "So we appeal to a wide crowd. We're sort of everybody's bar."
1514 N. 7th Ave., 602-254-1646, sidebarphoenix.com
There are places to go for a good martini, and then there's Durant's. This venerable dining hall serves up tasty steaks and seafood, but its lounge is really where it's at. Leather-look banquettes line the walls of what may well be the last true cocktail lounge left standing. Politicians and pipsqueaks alike line up at the bar for a Hendrick's and soda or a vodka martini so dry that it's practically desert real estate. You can, too.
2611 N. Central Ave., 602-264-5967,durantsaz.Com
When we're at this cozy, jam-kicking dance bar at night, we head for the rooftop balcony to be wowed by the fantastic flair-tending that Bar Smith barkeeps have been known to perform. Inside, the pub-style club offers a tasty lunch or dinner menu (try the Guinness Burger) and a swanky private VIP lounge. We always end the night with a kick-starting Café Patron at Bar Smith, our new favorite. Bar none.
130 E. Washington St., 602-229-1265, barsmithphoenix.com
3550 N. Central Ave.
128 E. Roosevelt St.
Cheuvront Restaurant and Wine Bar
1326 N. Central Ave.
District Bar at the Sheraton
320 N. 3rd St.
3815 N. Central Ave.
George & Dragon
4240 N. Central Ave.
105 W. Portland St.
705 N. 1st St.
2701 E. Indian School Rd.
5114 N. 7th St.